There are nine bodies — all of them young men — that have been lying in a Mumbai hospital morgue since Nov. 29. They may be stranded there for a while because no local Muslim charity is willing to bury them in its cemetery. This is good news.That’s what Tom Friedman says. But there is another explanation that seems equally plausible:
The fact that Indian Muslims have stood up in this way is surely due, in part, to the fact that they live in, are the product of and feel empowered by a democratic and pluralistic society. They are not intimidated by extremist religious leaders and are not afraid to speak out against religious extremism in their midst.
There are nine bodies — all of them young men — that have been lying in a Mumbai hospital morgue since Nov. 29. They may be stranded there for a while because no local Muslim charity is willing to bury them in its cemetery. This is bad news.Never mind the unseemly glee and presumptuousness with which Friedman purports to pass judgment on the propriety (or lack thereof) of the religious rites of another faith, never mind that the denial of a Moslem burial mirrors the extreme intimacy between the religious and the secular that empowers Moslem radicals–would Friedman similarly rejoice if Baruch Goldman’s grave were reopened and his remains returned to the Hebron morgue?—never mind that Friedman has a tendency to craft his quotes and anecdotes. I make no claim for the truthfulness of my alternative version and I know nothing of the theologies surrounding Moslem or Jewish burials, but I do say with some confidence that it would be deemed most uncharitable for the Christian church to deny a decent burial to the most heinous of condemned criminals among its flock.
The fact that Indian Moslems have stood back in this way is surely due, in part, to the fact that they live in, are the product of and feel cowered by a majority-rule society dominated by Hindus. They are intimidated by extremist religious Hindu leaders who have conducted multiple pogroms against Moslems in times of religious conflict and are afraid to bury their dead, let alone speak out against religious persecution from on the other side.
If my words are not enough, read Edward Luce’s highly regarded “In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India” and you will see that Friedman’s version of the truth, interpretation of the facts, cannot be accepted unquestioningly. But it was his most uncharitable thoughts that touched off my tirade.